As I have written before, I am a bit of an ignoramus when it comes to Ghanian highlife. It doesn't mean, however, that I don't have some preferences within the broad scope (both in time and in variety) of this music.
And Sammy Kofi (often referred to as Kofi Sammy) and his Okukuseku International are certainly among my favourites. Or perhaps I should write "were". Because I am not too sure about Mr. Kofi's more recent exploits. I refer you to a video on YouTube in which he confesses to be with "Jesssusss"....
I prefer his work from the 1970s and 1980s, and particularly the lp I am sharing with you in this post (although the one I posted earlier is also high on my list).
A quick study reveals that Sammy Kofi started Okukuseku in 1969, as "Okukuseku's No. 2 Guitar Band" initially (?). He had a background in the concert parties, which developed into guitar band highlife. He went through some famous orchestras before founding Okukuseku, notably E.K Nyame No.1 Band and Dr. K. Gyasi's Noble Kings. Okukuseku soon established itself as one of the leading guitar band highlife acts in Ghana. Despite the band's success, the "economy"* forced them to move to Nigeria at the end of the 1970s. Fortunately they continued recording, this time for Rogers All Stars.
I would like to draw your attention, by the way, to this site where a Canadian musician claims his father had a record of Okukuseku's No.2 Band from 1967. This seems to confirm my impression that there are still a lot of subjects to be researched more closely when it comes to highlife music...
Zooming in on the album I am particularly impressed by the overall quality of the music. The vocals are harmonious, the guitars are sparkling, the rhythm is jumpy and yet flowing. It is not hard to draw comparisons to East-Nigerian stars like Stephen Osita Osadebe, yet Okukuseku retains its own strong originality. I gather they sang (continued singing) in Twi, but must have made some allowances for their Nigerian audience as well.
I suspect the track "Maria" is one of those. As it happens, this is my favourite among favourites. This song has it all: great composition, great guitars, great vocals, lyrics with a touch of the dramatic, and Mr. Kofi talking, addressing Maria, imploring her to come back to him.
RASLPS 007 or RASLPS 007
* a word which nowadays can be used in any sentence, replacing "hard luck", "divine intervention", "the hand of God" and such.
VA-Everyone's World from Andy Kershaw
3 days ago